Mental Health Myths

In a world of misunderstandings and confusion, how can we combat the lies? Answer: we mythbust.

Just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean it isn’t so.

Lemony Snicket

Many of us have a very basic understanding of mental health because it’s not a topic that is frequently taught about. This isn’t our fault, but can lead to misguided views about what mental health is and what it entails. Taking time to educate yourself on the true meaning of mental health and conditions such as depression and anxiety means you are better equipped to navigate our current world.

Play Serotonin Says Mental Health Myths Jeopardy here:

Myth #1


Myth #2


Myth #3


Fact #1

Having a mental illness is ABSOLUTELY NOT your fault. A mental illness is not the result of a personal weakness or flaw. Rather, a mental health challenge is the result of factors that are out of one’s control, including an individual’s family tree (genetics) or a traumatic experience in one’s past.

Fact #2

While having a mental illness, such as depression, can make one feel isolated, those suffering from a mental illness do not have to face it alone. You can turn to your family, friends, or other trusted community members for love and comfort. For professional help, talk to your doctor about what treatment is right for you.

Fact #3

While not as obvious as a broken bone or respiratory illness, mental illnesses are real, diagnosable diseases that can have major impacts on a person’s life.

Myth #4

“Children can’t have mental health problems. Only adults can really experience depression and anxiety.”

Myth #5

“People with mental health conditions are just not trying hard enough. They could snap out of it if they wanted to.”

Myth #6

“Going to therapy can’t help someone with a mental health problem. The only solution is medication.”

Fact #4

With the ever-present stressors of modern life, children are experiencing mental health conditions more than ever before. The CDC estimates that up to 20% of children living in the U.S. are dealing with a mental health condition such as ADHD, anxiety, depression, or a behavioral disorder.

Fact #5

Mental health conditions aren’t the same as character flaws. They are deep-rooted and influenced by many factors. The notion that a person dealing with one of these conditions can “snap out of it” isn’t taking into account reasons behind why someone struggles with a mental health problem.

Fact #6

While it is true that medication is very effective in the treatment of mental health conditions, it is most definitely not the only solution. In fact, the best treatment for a multitude of conditions is a combination of meds and an alternative method of treatment, such as mindfulness.

Myth #7

“People with mental health problems can’t control themselves, are more dangerous and violent.”

Myth #8

“Those who have a mental health condition can’t be as productive as others in the workplace.”

Myth #9

“People who appear to be acting normal couldn’t possibly be struggling with a mental illness.”

Fact #7

This is a really sad misconception that people sometimes have about people dealing with mental illness. While it is true that certain conditions are characterized by more impulsive behavior, people struggling with mental health conditions are really no different from anyone else as far as “danger” or “violence” is concerned. The National Alliance on Mental Illness states that, “Only 5% of violent crimes in the U.S. are committed by people with serious mental illness.”

Fact #8

Although the effects of mental health conditions can be difficult to manage and sometimes demoralizing, it is not true that people in the workplace are “less effective”. In fact, with proper treatment, some places of business report that their employees with mental health conditions have lower absenteeism rates and improved productivity. All in all, there really is no evidence to support claims that those with mental health problems are any less productive than those without are.

Fact #9

While it may be hard for some to believe, most people who live with mental health conditions appear perfectly “normal” on a daily basis. People we interact with every single day are fighting battles we cannot see; it’s important to not make assumptions about someone’s mental health based on their outward appearance and affect. In fact, many people struggling with mental health conditions find it much easier to have a gated, closed-off persona in regards to sharing how they feel with people.

No one would ever say that someone with a broken arm or a broken leg is less than a whole person, but people say that or imply that all the time about people with mental illness.

Professor Elyn Saks
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